“The SADR considers illegal any activities related to the exploration or exploitation of the natural resources of the SADR without its express authorization. The Government of the SADR reserves the right to pursue legal action in respect of any such unauthorized activities”, the letter of which UPES received a copy reads.
Here is the complete text of the letter sent by the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, to the Company’s Director:
14 January 2009
Mr. Hans Meyer
Dear Mr. Meyer,
Seismic Acquisition in Western Sahara (SADR)
The Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has learnt that Fugro-Geoteam is involved in seismic acquisition offshore our territory.
As you would be aware, Western Sahara is currently illegally occupied by Morocco. Western Sahara is formally classified by the United Nations as a ‘Non self-governing territory’, which means that it is still waiting for a process of decolonisation through a UN process.
After a long and bloody war that lasted 17 years Moroccan and the Saharawi independence movement agreed to a UN sponsored cease-fire 1991 as part of a Settlement Plan that should have culminated in referendum of self-determination in 1992. However, the referendum has not taken place yet due to Morocco’s obstructions.
Morocco has not only obstructed the UN peace process and violated the UN resolutions and the agreements it signed with the Polisario Front but has also continuously abused human rights in the occupied Territories of Western Sahara according to recent Human Rights Watch Report of 19 December 2008:
The award of exploration licenses over the territorial waters of Western Sahara by Morocco has been condemned by the SADR as an illegal act aimed at legitimising Morocco’s illegal occupation of our country and plundering our resources. Such deals are unacceptable to the Saharawi people and are considered as highly provocative and indeed a violation of the current cease-fire arrangements. Furthermore, the involvement of foreign companies in Western Sahara is profoundly unethical and immoral because the deals are made with Morocco which is an absolute monarchy that has a bad human rights record and has been involved in acts of aggression against a neighbouring country.
In 2002, the Under-Secretary-General of Legal Affairs, Mr Hans Correll, issued a legal opinion to the Security Council on the matter in which he reaffirmed that Morocco has no sovereignty over Western Sahara. Mr Correll stated that if exploration and exploitation of the oil resources of the Territory “were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories”. During a conference held in December 2008 in South Africa Mr. Correll reaffirmed his opinion of 2002 and added referring to agreements made with Morocco that it is "obvious that an agreement…that does not make a distinction between the waters adjacent to Western Sahara and the waters adjacent to the territory of Morocco would violate international law":
Several companies that got involved in Western Sahara through deals made with Morocco have decided to withdraw amongst them for example Kerr McGee, Total and Baraka. Other companies have preferred to deal with the Saharawi republic and not engage in the exploitation of SADR resources until the Saharawi republic is admitted to the UN.
The Government of the SADR, which is a founding member of the African Union and recognised by over 80 Countries world-wide as the sovereign authority over the territory of Western Sahara, considers that the presence of Fugro-Geoteam in Western Sahara is illegal and highly unwarranted.
The Government of the SADR strongly urges Fugro-Geoteam to cease its illegal activities in Western Sahara immediately.
The Government of the SADR considers illegal any activities related to the exploration or exploitation of the natural resources of the SADR without its express authorization. The Government of the SADR reserves the right to pursue legal action in respect of any such unauthorized activities.
It is worth noting that Western Sahara remains a conflict area and all foreign nations in order to safeguard the security and well- being of their citizens ought to discourage them from getting involved in the Territory until the resolution of the conflict. Foreign companies have a special duty not to involve their employees in a conflict zone. The companies should assume their responsibilities and end their presence in Western Sahara henceforth.
Mohamed Salem Ould Salek
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic